Whoever said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery clearly did not have a startup. The fact is, when you have a good idea the copycats will come out of the woodwork to steal it. To keep competitors on their toes and your startup from becoming one of too many, Danielle Tate, entrepreneur, and the founder and CEO of MissNowMrs.com, the leading online name change service for brides, offers advice on several ways that you can protect your startup from pirates and avoid costly legal battles:
1) Build Your Brand…Fast. With great ideas, it is a race to bring the product to market. In your planning, I suggest prioritizing how you are going to grab market share. Whether you use PR, advertisements or social media, it is important for your new business to make a memorable splash in your market. Once your company is established as the industry leader, copycats are less likely to take your idea and if they do, they should make less of a negative impact on your business.
2) Put a Face With Your Company Name. Consumers love to know the entrepreneur and back story behind a company and become much more connected to your brand when they feel like they know you. In any copycat situation, your best customers are also your best defenders. If a customer is emotionally engaged with your brand they are much more likely to stay loyal to your brand when copycats appear, and may also defend you via social media and word of mouth.
3) Protect What is Valuable. Determine what the most valuable assets of your company are and then find ways to protect them. This can be as simple as adding a copycat scanning software like CopyScape to your website or as complicated as writing code to detect suspicious use of your product. Whatever you choose to do to protect your startup, being proactive instead of reactive will save you stress, money and possible litigation.
4) Form Strategic Partnerships. If there are key companies in the industry your company is entering, consider partnering with them. The partnership will help boost awareness of your brand and also locks any copycat companies out of relationships with these partners. Strategic partnerships are also beneficial if you are afraid that a large company will take your idea. A partnership or private label will allow the larger company to benefit from your startup without stealing from you.
5) Patent It. If your idea or product is unique, money spent on filing a patent is a wise investment. While the process is lengthy and expensive, the protection a patent offers your start up is unparalleled. Even before your patent is approved, the words “patent pending” will deter potential copycats.
These five tips should help your startup stay safe and allow you to focus on building your business instead of fighting off copycats. Creating a company from an idea is an amazing feat. Good luck.
Danielle Tate is the founder of MissNowMrs.com.
For more on protecting your brand, make an appointment with a SCOREOC mentor today.